「愛とも恋ともいうけれど」 (Ai tomo koi tomo iukeredo)
“It’s Been Called Love and Affection”
Well nine episodes in and it looks like the tipping point has been reached. With Neko’s arc now finished, MnR has apparently decided to head full throttle into romcom territory, breaking out the intro-teased rival and foreshadowing some serious misconceptions surrounding Masamune’s plan for vengeance. A surprising amount of gears are now moving, and we only have three episodes to go.
It’s probably no huge shock that Neko’s disappearance was mostly overblown, a final act in her crush on Masamune and a living out of an cheesy manga scene. Although Masamune’s manga knowledge hilariously came to use for once, there’s little doubt Neko’s story is arguably the saddest of the group. A sickly girl who simply wanted to feel love, Neko funnily found it in the lottery selected fat kid. I’m slightly surprised there was no arranged marriage trope–or Neko also being overweight–but with what transpired here, I’ll gladly take it. What makes Neko’s history so heartfelt of course is how close she came to realizing it. The girl may have played off her infatuation off as a simple experience, but she truly felt something for Masamune, a feeling she openly admits could have been realized if she did not initially lie. Neko was definitely the better choice for Masamune I’d argue, and one that would have resulted if circumstances and misunderstandings were not part of the picture.
While still “worse”, main girl Aki is showing significant improvement, buoyed in part by the empathy she showed to Neko this week. For Aki these moments are substantial because they better balance out her personality and open her up to further development with Masamune. The big thing accomplished by Aki’s development in particular is questioning Masamune’s revenge. Aki’s end scene musing for example indicates Aki’s rejection of Masamune was not as simple as the flashbacks indicate, as Aki apparently was rejected herself, with Masamune the most probable culprit given that love of pudge. If Masamune’s doubts do not do him in first, it’s very likely some serious–and currently hidden–misunderstanding between him and Aki will determine the fate of his revenge scheme.
How we get to the endgame though will probably rumple a few feathers, as now we also apparently have a Masamune imposter entering the picture. While foreshadowed long ago in the intro, this is still a strange development in my opinion given MnR already has the pieces necessary to bring Aki and Masamune together, get them crushing, and let that secret history spill out. Masamune after all has now broached his infamous nickname to Aki, while the cruel princess herself is wondering aloud if she should “fall” for Masamune. Both characters are naturally coming together and seeking/desiring greater intimacy. I am not sure how a rival masquerading as Masamune can better help conclude the central story of this show, especially when Neko’s chats with both characters largely accomplished the developmental heavy lifting. With manga readers too openly loathing this story arc, it’s hard holding much optimism towards the upcoming events. Guess we will just have to wait and see how this new development plays out here, even if the warnings of NTR and forced drama grow ever audible in the distance.